The Genetic Gods: Evolution and Belief in Human Affairs

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9780674346253: The Genetic Gods: Evolution and Belief in Human Affairs
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They mastermind our lives, shaping our features, our health, and our behavior, even in the sacrosanct realms of love and sex, religion, aging, and death. Yet we are the ones who house, perpetuate, and give the promise of immortality to these biological agents, our genetic gods. The link between genes and gods is hardly arbitrary, as the distinguished evolutionary geneticist John Avise reveals in this compelling book. In clear, straightforward terms, Avise reviews recent discoveries in molecular biology, evolutionary genetics, and human genetic engineering, and discusses the relevance of these findings to issues of ultimate concern traditionally reserved for mythology, theology, and religious faith.

The book explains how the genetic gods figure in our development--not just our metabolism and physiology, but even our emotional disposition, personality, ethical leanings, and, indeed, religiosity. Yet genes are physical rather than metaphysical entities. Having arisen via an amoral evolutionary process--natural selection--genes have no consciousness, no sentient code of conduct, no reflective concern about the consequences of their actions. It is Avise's contention that current genetic knowledge can inform our attempts to answer typically religious questions--about origins, fate, and meaning. The Genetic Gods challenges us to make the necessary connection between what we know, what we believe, and what we embody.

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About the Author:

John C. Avise is Professor of Genetics at the University of Georgia and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1994 he served as President of the Society for the Study of Evolution.

From Publishers Weekly:

Addressing himself to the "open-minded reader who would appreciate a simplified discussion of recent evolutionary-genetic findings," Avise, professor of biology at the University of Georgia, states that genes control so much of our behavior, health and thoughts that they can be considered "gods," with more say in our everyday lives than those of the world's major religions. "Genes are tangible entities, with profound influences on humanity. Indeed, over the last century, the genetic gods would seem to have wrestled from the supernatural gods considerable authority over human affairs. Does any room remain for a metaphysical god?" Although Avise takes this metaphor too far, his account of the role genes play in shaping the human condition is wholly involving, paying particular attention to issues of reproduction, aging and death. In addition to presenting ample biological information in a form accessible to the nonspecialist, Avise does a superb job of discussing many of the ethical implications that have arisen from our growing knowledge of human genetics. Just a few of the topics covered are genetic engineering, the patenting of life, genetic screening, abortion, human cloning, gene therapy and insurance-related controversies. 21 line illustrations.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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9780674005334: The Genetic Gods: Evolution and Belief in Human Affairs

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ISBN 10:  0674005333 ISBN 13:  9780674005334
Publisher: Harvard University Press, 2001
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